Katagiri Roshi

‘We use the terms universal effort and individual effort, but actually there is no gap between them. You take care of universal effort by your individual effort. It’s a little difficult to do this because we are always critical toward our own effort. We attach to getting a certain result from our effort. Then we judge it in terms of ideas and emotions connected with our heredity, education, consciousness, and memories coming from the past, so it’s very complicated. Universal effort is very simple. That’s why we try to understand out lives in terms of the universal perspective. How?

When you wash your face, accept washing as universal effort first, and then make your individual effort. Deal with everything – your face, the waater, your posture of standing in front of the basin – as universal activity. Through the actions of washing your face, you can go beyond your usual understanding and experience the pure nature of washing your face. This is the realm of total dynamic action. Right in the middle of taking good care of your individual effort as universal effort, the whole world comes into one screen. That one screen is the big picture of your life. When you see that living screen, you can learn who you really are.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)

Some serendipitous moments around this post: first of all, I think it acts as an excellent commentary on Dogen’s post from yesterday. This was not something I planned out when I sat down to type some posts at the beginning of the week. With my impending move, I have started packing up books, and set aside ones that I knew I could use for blog posts. This particular volume of Katagiri’s talks is one I knew I hadn’t referenced for a while, though I had previously noted various passages as suitable for the blog.

When I opened to this particular page, I found a bookmark – an old-fashioned sales slip from the kimono shop in Japantown, dated January 2020, from when my partner first visited San Francisco; an afternoon in Japantown was a part of our first weekend together. I wanted her advice on a nice kimono I could wear as a bathrobe, to replace one that had worn out after ten years of regular use. A month or two ago I tried to visit the store again, but it was closed. Last week, my partner and I went to Japantown again on an outing, and saw a sign on the store window directing us to a different store in the mall – one I recognised as soon as I entered as the place my dharma sister Djinn went to for the best matcha. I bought a noren hanging that I could use as a backdrop for Zoom calls (the reason I wanted to visit recently) and two little calligraphies, one saying love, and one saying health, our two main focuses in these past eighteen months.


‘Monks’ actions are endeavor in the cloud hall [monks’ hall], bowing in the buddha hall, and cleansing in the wash house. Further, putting palms together, greeting, burning incense, and boiling water are all right actions. It is not replacing the tail with the head, but replacing the head with the head, replacing the mind with the mind, replacing the buddha with the buddha, and replacing the way with the way. This is the right action path limb.

If you go astray and try to fathom buddha dharma other than this, your eyebrows and beard will fall out and your face will break up.’ (Shobogenzo Sanjushichi Hon Bodai Bumpo)

This Thirty-Seven Wings of Enlightenment fascicle mostry reads like pro-monastic propaganda, but this notion of right action can apply anywhere.

Summer Times

The fog switch has been flipping on and off again – after the previous weekend, we went back to a week of greyness before the clear skies rolled in again for the weekend. Having chosen Saturday for my weekly long ride, I was glad to get through Daly City and Colma without getting soaked by condensation; there was another benefit in having no headwind on the way back, which usually makes the last hour or so more energy-sapping.

For the roam on Sunday, we had warm sun and a bit of a fresh breeze; we headed for shade a few times when it was available, and when I got home afterwards, I definitely felt like I had had my dose of sunshine for the day.

It suddenly seems like I have more time available to me in the coming weeks, for three reasons: after the Euros, the football is over for the summer, and so is the Tour de France – with disappointments for the English on the final day of each. I hadn’t intended to watch the Tour at all, but since it was being shown in its entirety on the channel I subscribe to for the football, I got caught up in the stories and emotions (and of course the landscapes and the chateaux). The third opening up of time is around housing: I have found my next place to live, and the relief of signing a new lease was reflected in my sleeping much more soundly this week than I have for a while.

Despite the rigours and disappointments of the weeks of looking, I trusted that something good would show up – as it has done for my previous two housing searches. On Friday, ten days ago, scouring Craigslist afresh, as I had been doing every day, I saw a new listing that looked ideal, was able to see it an hour later, and put in an application at the end of the day. The people I am dealing with, unlike plenty of others I have come across, have been very clear and prompt in all their communications, which is in itself a relief, and the place is lovely – not so far from Zen Center as well. The only stress I had was on Monday a week ago, when, having signed the lease, I was asked to send the deposit and first month’s rent over (which I am grateful to have enough money in the bank to be able to do), and Venmo flagged the transaction. I started my sit with Zachary tense, and wondering how I was going to deal with it. I managed to get half the amount sent over, but despite assurances from Venmo customer support, the other half kept getting flagged, so after my later meditation session, I rushed over to the bank to collect a banker’s cheque, and rode over to deliver it to the building manager. The next morning, everything was confirmed. Now I just have all the rest of the burocracy to deal with, plus the packing…

This was what the city looked like most of the week.
A jacaranda in the Dogpatch, from Sunday’s roam.
I assume this is a Mark di Suvero in the UCSF quad in Mission Bay. It was moving with the breeze.
Kayaking along Mission Creek towards the Third St bridge, with the newest developments in the background.

Enkyo O’Hara

Stupid, stupid, stupid
How delightful is my stupidity!
Once I recognize it and come back to now–
The clouds and the buildings
And the funny little humans darting in the streets–
How marvelous they are!
This one life!

Angie Boissevain

‘Zazen practice brings us back to our only-ness, our aloneness, our oneness. It helps us face the lies and the sometimes difficult truth of how our life is going.  Even when we discover mistakes and lies we’ve been hiding from our self, in the end there’s a tremendous freshness and a great relief to be honest.  ….Our only activity is to return to the present, to be this right now place.’ (Seeds of Virtue, Seeds of Change)

Thich Nhat Hanh

‘If we are washing dishes and thinking of others who are enjoying themselves doing nothing, we cannot enjoy washing the dishes. We may have a few clean dishes afterwards, but our happiness is smaller than one teaspoon. If however, we wash the dishes with a serene mind, our happiness will be boundless. This is already liberation.’ (Commentary on the Diamond Sutra)

Obviously, this does not just apply to washing dishes.

Dale S. Wright

‘The practices of generosity produce feelings of compassion precisely insofar as they are able to transform the kinds of self-understanding and self-concern that structure our lives. The new sense of self gradually generated is based on a recognition that my own good as a person is closely bound up with the good of others. From this perspective, egocentric people are always those whose lives are based on a misconception, a mistaken or immature understanding about how the world of human beings is structured. Living in that state of human character, we tragically see ourselves as independent and alone in the world, and our actions, therefore, as isolating, protecting, and securing ourselves.

The practices of generosity – acts of giving, whether in meditation or in the social world – function to develop a more mature and expansive sense of the self, one that naturally gives rise to a greater capacity for opening ourselves to others.’(The Six Perfections)

I still have a list of many dozens of sections of this book I would like to include in this blog, so expect to see more regularly.

Kathryn Schulz

‘Patience did not achieve its status as a virtue because our greatest moral thinkers held in high esteem the ability to sit still. What they actually had in mind was a particular relationship between the self and the other, an inward restraint that has nothing to do with behaving like a rock and everything to do with how we treat other people. Silence and endurance are the hallmarks of rugged individualism, not of patience. What patience requires is humility, empathy, and forbearance: the ability to set aside our own needs for a while, to listen, to stay calm, to keep working together toward a given end despite all the setbacks we encounter along the way.’ (from the New Yorker)

This paragraph is from the closing of a typically fascinating New Yorker article, one that looked at Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, among other things. That book was one of the first Buddhist books I read, and I remember enjoying it greatly, while still worrying about some of the human aspects that are also highlighted in the article.

J.C. Cleary

‘From our point of view at the time, our mental state as teenagers in the 1960s, I think we were drawn to Buddhism because it gave the first articulate statement of truth we ever encountered. Buddhist thought was just so true, so lucid, so all-encompassing, so refreshing, we had to stop and find out more.’ (from the New York Times)

This quote comes from the obituary of J.C. Cleary’s brother Thomas, a familiar name to anyone who has read a Buddhist book in the last twenty years – he translated so many of the works that fill our shelves. The only criticism I ever heard of the Clearys was that there tended not to be indexes in their books, so it was not easy to navigate to particular stories; the writing itself is faultless and easy to read.

It also brings home the point that only a couple of generations ago, when Suzuki Roshi was getting Zen Center off the ground, that access to the wisdom of Buddhist teaching was incredibly limited. We can only be grateful that we now have so much more to read and digest.

Teijo Munnich

‘In order to awaken to the truth of life and reality, we first have to become free of our self-imposed restrictions, the delusions which cause us to adhere to the belief that there is something to depend upon that is lasting and that our life is in some way unique. Recognizing impermanence, we are aware of the infinite possibilities that are always present in life, rather than being stuck in our perceptions of what is possible. Being aware of interconnectedness, we naturally experience the support of everything in life. That is what we awaken to and return to in zazen. And this is called jijuyu zanmai.’ (Receiving the Marrow)

This is a repost – as busy as I am right now, one of the things that have been put to one side is spending a morning reading dharma books and lining up posts for a week or two. Still, as I have said before, with almost 2100 posts on here, there is a lot that I feel is worth revisiting.

I think I read this differently to how I did five years ago. There is a way that jijuyu zanmai feels more instinctive than it did then, at least at good moments.